My 5 year old is a big lover of Disney Princesses and while she got an absolute blast out of taking pictures with Cinderella, Belle, Ariel and Tianna recently, she has always been more interested in the stories of Mulan and Pochahontas. She has been listening to the audio versions of these stories again recently and as we lie there listening to Pocahontas (it’s first on our CD), she keeps asking me questions about the real Pocahontas, questions I simply haven’t been able to answer.
So yesterday I was in the library looking for non-fiction children’s books for an article that I’m working on and I found Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. I knew that I had to bring that home for her to see and of course she loved it. Kathleen Krull is a real pro at writing biographies for children and I didn’t even realize it was one of hers when I picked it up.
Of course, as soon as E saw the book she was super excited. She started asking me questions in the car and I kept saying, “We will have to read it when we get home.” I didn’t get a chance to read it with her because J read it to her while I was making dinner, but when I asked if she liked it she said she loved it.
Krull admits in the back of the book that very little is known of Pocahontas and that all of her information came from English sources but with the known facts and research from a variety of sources, she tried to put the story together as best she could. Through engaging and colorful illustrations, she captures the younger listener’s eye and her story can be told. As the story begins she is an 11 year old girl who was “clever and fearless.” She was well respected and “knew how to get her own way – as a proper princess must.”
In 1607 three ships from England landed near her village. “The men were exhausted, sick, smelly, and crabby” and they had come to this new land to try and make money for investors in England. “Within months, half of these 108 men would be dead.” The new land wasn’t an easy place for them to live and they didn’t know how to work or live off of the land.
John Smith was a brave adventurer who tried to learn the language of the Powhatan tribe, but one day he was ambushed and taken to their chief who wanted them to leave the land or commit to being his allies against other tribes. When John Smith didn’t answer, a sign was given that made him believe he was about to lose his life. Pocahontas stepped in and for a time there was peace between the two groups. Smith became an important part of the colony’s fate and helped Jamestown develop as it grew to contain 500 English, but one day for no reason he needed to return to England.
The settlement struggled for a while and then things got openly hostile with the Indians. In 1613 they kidnapped Pocahontas, remembering her high status. Her father called their bluff and would not negotiate to get her back. During her kidnapped state, she started to learn more about the English, was coaxed into their clothing and taught their religion. In fact, “the princess became the first American convert to Christianity.” She fell in love with an Englishman, wed him, and had a child. Her father sent gifts and a promise for peace. She wound up traveling back to England and seeing what life was like there, but died soon after.
So the two Disney movies got parts of it right, except for the overwhelming love story angle of the first movie. And now we have a much better idea of what the story of Pocahontas entails so I can answer more of my little one’s inquisitive questions.
I was thrilled to find this book and to add it to the list of non-fiction picture books as a part of the roundup organized by Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction by reading through all of the other blogs and the challenge it gives me to actually get my posts up.